Painting Pin Up Tank

Pin up on motorcycle tank tutorial hopefully explains the method I used to paint a Yamaha fuel tank with a bomber theme. We decided to call it “Triple Trouble” because the bike has 3 cylinders and 3 bullet holes in the design. By Ashley Brayson

Materials used in this tutorial: Paints used: Auto Air, Airbrushes used: Iwata Eclipse, Olympos hp-b, Iwata RG3, Masking: Application tape and 3M masking tape, Brush: Daler Rowney Rigger.


primed motorcycle tank

Step 1: The tank was primed and ready to paint when it arrived at the shop.




scuff primed surface

Step 2: I scuffed the surface with a red Scotch brite pad to provide some tooth for the paint to adhere to. This was then wiped down with panel wipe to give a nice clean surface.




auto air dark base sealer

Step 3: Using my Iwata RG-3 spray gun (0.6 nozzle) I sprayed an initial coat of Auto Air base coat sealer dark. This provides a good base for the subsequent Auto Air colours to adhere to. Notice that I have the tank on a bean bag covered with a sheet. As I go along I dry the paint with my heat gun and turn the tank over for the next area to be painted. I find I can paint the whole tank without hanging it up.


auto base coat applied

Step 4: Here you can see the whole tank is painted using the base coat dark sealer. I like to use water based paints because my studio is small and it suits my working environment very well.


Auto Air metallic silver

Step 5: Now I come in with the Auto Air metallic silver. As I go along I heat set the paint with my Bosch hot air gun. This ensures the paint is cured properly. Don’t get too close and keep the gun moving so you don’t blister the surface! I generally wave the gun about so I’m not in one position too long.


silver tank

Step 6: Now we have a silver tank. If you’re worried about getting fluff etc on the tank from the sheet then put a plastic bag over the bean bag instead.


masking the tank

Step 7: Application tape is now placed on both sides of the tank. This is a low tack tape used in the vinyl sign making trade to apply stickers. It doesn’t stick very well to metallic surfaces so you need to use a low pressure when airbrushing or it may lift.


drawing deign on masking

Step 8: I now draw the girl I have chosen for the design onto the tape; just the basic outline is fine. I’m using the same girl on both sides but her dress will be a different colour. I use tracing paper so that I can replicate the design exactly.


carefully cutting the design out

Step 9: Now it’s time to cut along all of the lines you have drawn with a scalpel. Be gentle as you don’t want to cut too deep. I find using two hands helps me to cut steadily and makes it easier to negotiate the sometimes tight curves.


start painting with white base

Step 10: I remove a section at a time and spray a reduced white (Auto Air semi opaque white reduced with Fantastik/water).


progress painting leg

Step 11: I try not to simply cover the area but go for a 3 dimensional look. Study your picture and add highlights as you go; you want depth to the image.


painting pin up progress pic

Step 12: Here you can see I have finished this stage of the girl. The opposite side of the tank is done in the same manner. You are striving for a good base on which to apply your colours. The colours would not show correctly if you simply applied them on top of the silver base.


apply flesh tomes

Step 13: Using detail ochre I begin to apply the flesh tones; I work lightly almost dusting the colour over the white. Again you need to keep studying your reference picture and apply the colours to specific areas. Don’t just covers the whole image in one go; it won’t look anything like flesh until you start to apply other colours on top. Remember that this is a layering process so work slowly and hopefully thoughtfully!


painting shadow areas

Step 14: With detail golden and then detail red we begin to see the skin colour beginning to evolve. Concentrate the darkest colours where the shadows are.


working on eyes and lips

Step 15: With a brush I add the whites of the eyes and red lips; I rarely use a brush in my work but I wanted a crisp look to this. I wouldn’t go near a brush if the girl had been freehanded with my airbrush.


painting eyes

Step 16: With black and blue for the eyes I add more detail. Don’t forget to add a glint in the eyes to bring them alive.


painting dress

Step 17: With the girl complete I mask over her and remove the dress area. Again with my reduced white I detail in the creases with my airbrush. All of this detail gives you something to aim at when you go in with the colours.


painting pin up dress

Step 18: I liberally spray detail violet over the dress to provide a background tone.


adding shadow area to dress

Step 19: Using detail magenta I follow the folds and creases to slowly add depth.


adding detail to shoes

Step 20: With the dress unmasked I now remove the tape covering the shoes. With a base of detail yellow airbrushed first, I then detail the shoes with my brush.


adding detail to pin up

Step 21: A little shadowing and some highlights with my airbrush gives a more 3D look. At this stage all that is left to do is the hair.


painting hair on pin up

Step 22: With a mixture of opaque brown and opaque purple to darken it I begin work on the hair.


pin up complete

Step 23: This is a shot of the girl completed.


adding rivet to tank

Step 24: Now at this stage I wanted to add a riveted panel to the top of the tank. To provide an outline to the panel I applied masking tape with a 3mm gap which I then airbrushed black.


painting rivets

Step 25: For the rivets the easiest method seemed to punch holes in a sheet of clear plastic so that my spacing would be constant. I held the sheet in place with tape and airbrushed a reduced black on the top edge of each hole to give the illusion of a curved shadow. A dot of white to the opposite side of each one gives a raised domed look.


adding shadows to the rivets

Step 26: You can see here that I have added a shadow and highlight to the outside edge of each rivet also so that they look pushed into the surface of the steel.



Step 27: This is a clearer view of the rivets. Just remember where you think your light source will be coming from and add the shadows and highlights accordingly.


adding lettering

Step 28: Now it’s time for the lettering. With some application tape in place I trace the letters onto it from a print out I produced on my computer, make sure the spelling is right.


painting lettering

Step 29: At this stage the tape has been cut and removed, try and get smooth curves as you cut. There’s nothing worse than wavy edges on a rounded letter. After white I airbrush yellow and orange to give a “bomber look” to the words.


outlining lettering

Step 30: Using base coat sealer dark I outline each letter with my rigger brush. I used the base coat sealer because it is very opaque. Outlining finished. I can breathe again!


bullet holes

Step 31: This is a close up of the bullet holes. I rendered these in a similar way to the rivets but the center hole is simply black. White and black to the outer edge add depth and make the holes look punched in.


adding rusty look
pin up tank completed
pin up tank completed

Step 32: With transparent root beer I add rust/gasoline runs for effect. Its silly little things like this that adds interest to a project. Last of all I cut out some bombs in cardboard and stenciled these at the girls feet

As far as the painting goes that’s it! Now for the clear coat and a polish.This is the tank finished. I hope you found this How-To informative whether you are a beginner or advanced airbrusher just comparing techniques.

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